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Robert Jeffress - The Day Jesus Came To Church

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Robert Jeffress - The Day Jesus Came To Church

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Skeptics often argue that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God, and how could Jesus be the Messiah if he never himself made such an assertion? Well, those who wanna make that argument have clearly never read the Bible, or at least they haven't read it very carefully. Because over and over again Jesus claims to be the Son of God. Why else would the Jews have been provoked to kill him? Well, today on "Pathway to Victory", we'll look at one of those shocking revelations when Jesus spoke up in the synagogue. My message is titled, "The day Jesus came to church", on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

Have you ever noticed how fickle people are? I mean, how they can change in a moment from being your greatest encourager to you staunchest critic. Every athlete knows that reality. One popular NFL player said, "Every NFL quarterback knows that one week you can be in the penthouse and the next week in the outhouse". It's not athletes that understand that. If you're an employee, you understand that as well. One week your supervisor calls you in and says, "We couldn't make it in this place without you". And the next month he can call you in and say, "Sorry, but your services are no longer needed". Parents understand that reality of how quickly things can turn against you, especially if you have adolescents still living in the home. Moms today, your children may be saying, "Oh mom, you're incredible, thanks for all you do for me". By Friday they're saying, "You're the worst mom to ever walk the face of the earth". They change quickly.

Jesus understood that reality as well. Remember the last week of his earthly life? On Monday he entered Jerusalem to the cries of the people, "Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna"! That same crowd by Friday were yelling out, "Crucify him, crucify him". Actually Jesus had experienced a similar phenomenon at the early outset of his ministry when a group of people who had been praising him turned on a dime against him in the space of just a few minutes. We're gonna see what happened in that instant. Because in spite of their criticism, Jesus kept marching forward in his obedience to God. We're going to look at that incident today in Luke chapter 4, if you have your Bibles, turn to Luke chapter 4 as we talk about what happened the day Jesus came to church. Verses 14 and 15 are summary statements about his ministry of a year and a half in Galilee, the northern part of Israel. "And Jesus returned", there it is, "He returned to Galilee in the power of the spirit, and news about him spread throughout the surrounding district. And he began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all".

Now, let me say a word about synagogues. Synagogues were local houses of worship. Literally houses of instruction. The synagogue actually came into reality during the Babylonian deportation. Remember in about 586 B.C. The Babylonians had come under Nebuchadnezzar and taken Judah captive. And since they had been used to worshiping at the temple, now that they were in Babylon, they had no place to worship. So they instituted these synagogues, local worship places. Well, after they returned back to Israel, they kept that practice. A synagogue was just a simple place where you went to worship every Saturday. To form a synagogue in your community, you really only needed 10 Jewish men, that was enough to have a synagogue, and that was the place that they worshiped week in and week out.

Interestingly, about 10 years ago some Israelis were building a new housing development in the town, the village of Migdal, Migdal in the north. Migdal is associated with the ancient city of Magdala. It used to be Magdala. Now, do you know somebody that came from Magdala? Remember, Mary the Magdalene came from Magdala. Well, when they were building this housing development, they were putting the foundation in, and they found some stone. And once they hit the stone, they began to dig further and further and further. They found an entire synagogue from the ancient village of Magdala, Migdal. It was no doubt one of these synagogues where Jesus taught and worshiped. In fact, they also found a coin that was a Roman coin from 29 A.D., the year that Jesus began his ministry. It's one of only seven synagogues that have been uncovered in Israel. Well, Jesus was teaching every Saturday in the synagogues and he was being praised by all.

Now, that's the summary statement of what was going on during that year or so that he was in the northern region of Galilee. But look at verse 16. As a part of his ministry, "He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as was his custom, he entered the synagogue on the sabbath and stood up to read". Every Saturday he was in the synagogue. But this particular synagogue that Jesus came to in verse 16 was not just any old synagogue. It was the synagogue in the city where he grew up. It was the synagogue where he worshiped as a child and a teenager. This is the place where Jesus had been brought every Saturday to worship.

And you can imagine the emotion Jesus must have felt as he entered this particular synagogue. And no doubt he saw some of his family there. Mary was still alive, his mother. Joseph had probably passed away by this point. The synagogue was probably filled with his half-brothers and half-sisters that were the children of Mary and Joseph. They were there. His childhood friends were there as well. Probably the elders who had ministered to him as a boy, they were there as well. It must have been a great moment of emotion for Jesus as he entered his childhood synagogue. You know, I personally can identify with that. I spent the first 30 years of my life like Jesus spent the first 30 years of his life. I spent the first 30 years of my life growing up here at the First Baptist Church of Dallas. And then I went away for 22 years to pastor in other places.

And as long as I live I'll never forget the emotion almost nine years ago of walking into that old sanctuary to preach my sermon in view of a call here. To walk into that place where I'd been saved and baptized and ordained in the ministry. I remember walking up to that pulpit and looking up at the balcony where my parents used to sit before God called them to heaven, looking out on my friends from childhood, seeing those leaders who at young men were leaders in our church but were still in their latter years serving God still so faithfully. I mean, it was a great moment of emotion for me. I imagine Jesus felt that way as well as he went into that place. Not just as a spectator, but as somebody who was about to lead the service. He went into the synagogue, and notice this phrase here, will you? "As was his custom". This wasn't a once a month deal for Jesus or a once a year thing for Jesus. Regular sabbath worship was a part of his routine.

Now, think about this for a moment. If anybody had an excuse for not going to church, it would have been Jesus. He could have used any of the familiar excuses today. Oh, I've heard it all before. Oh, Jesus had heard it all before, he knew the scriptures backward and forward. Heck, he wrote the scriptures, so he knew them. He didn't use that as an excuse. Or he could have said, you know, I really don't agree with the way the money is being spent there. Yeah, some of you back there, you got that one. Jesus could have used that argument, and he would have been right. The Jewish religious system was corrupt, the way they used the money. By the way, that Jewish religious system would crucify Jesus within a few years. But he didn't use that excuse. He could have said, I don't have to come to church to worship God, I can worship anywhere I am, out on the Sea of Galilee, I can commune with God. Well, yeah, he did commune with God. He had perfect fellowship with God, but he used none of those excuses. It was a part of his habit to come to worship. Because you see, Jesus understand how vital corporate worship was in maintaining his relationship with God.

Now, think about this, if corporate worship once a week was important to Jesus, how much more vital is it for you and me? It's not a nicety, it's a necessity, if we're gonna stay strong in our faith. It can't be this attitude, well, yeah, I'll come to church if I'm not out of town or have something else better to do or the kids having a soccer game or blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, no. No, it was an absolute essential for Jesus. Listen to Hebrews chapter 10 verses 24 and 25 about why it's so important for us to worship. We read it just a moment ago. "And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near".

The writer is saying as this day gets more and more evil, as the end comes closer and closer, we need encouragement that comes from other Christians. After battered and bruised by difficult circumstances and difficult people all week, we need a time to come together to encourage one another. After a week of being distracted from spiritual things, we need a time to come together and refocus on God and remember that he's the center, not only of our life, but of the universe. Corporate worship, fellowshipping, hearing God's word, praying, singing, all of that is vital for us. But listen, another reason it's vital is because of other people. You see, worship once a week not only benefits you, it benefits others, and when you're not here, it significantly impacts other people, for the worse, not the better.

Did you know your presence here makes a difference and your absence here makes a real difference as well? When you're not in your place, in your pew on Sunday morning, when there's an empty hole there, it really affects other people in the body of Christ negatively. A few years ago I just wrote down some of the consequences of what happens when you and I are not in our place of worship on Sunday, when you're not here, it means, number one, there's one less voice singing God's praises. There's one less prayer being offered before the throne of grace. There's one less person here available to meet the needs of hurting Christians. When you're not here on Sundays, it means there's one less spiritual gift being exercised to help perfect the body of Christ. And it means there's one less believer present to hear the vital instruction from God's word that will impact the world for Christ. Your presence here does make a difference. Not just in your life, but in the lives of other people here as well. That's why Jesus made it his custom to be in worship every Saturday.

Now look at verse 16. "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as was his custom, he entered the synagogue on the sabbath and he stood up to read". Now, let me explain what's going on here. There was no permanent pastor of the synagogue. There was no permanent preacher every Saturday. Instead, those duties of leading worship were passed around. So when Jesus came in, since he was the hometown boy, he was given the task of leading worship on that Saturday. Now, to appreciate what was going on here, you have to understand something about the synagogue worship service. And there were three components to synagogue worship in addition to the prayer and the singing of the psalter, three major portions, write them down. First of all, it would begin with the invocation. The great Shema, which means here, was read from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. "Hear o Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one". That was the foundational belief of Judaism, the oneness of God, and that was followed by a prayer.

Then the second major portion of the service was the reading of the scripture. The leader of the service that day would be handed a scroll and he would read and the people would stand together and read along with him the scripture. And by the way, 2.000 years later, we do the same thing today. First Peter 5:13, Paul said to Timothy, "Give attention to the public reading of the scripture". And then, once they had read the scripture, the people would be seated and the leader would be seated as well, and he would explain the scripture and apply it to the lives of the listeners. That was the structure of the synagogue service. Now, verse 17, Jesus, the leader, was the one who was to read and explain the scripture. So look at verse 17. "And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him".

Now, apparently the book of the Bible had already been chosen. Maybe they had some regulated reading program they were in as a synagogue. Maybe it was a read through the Old Testament in a year plan they were on, I don't know. But they had gotten to Isaiah, so they handed the scroll of Isaiah to Jesus, but Jesus apparently had the latitude to pick which passage he was going to read from. So he read from the 61st chapter of Isaiah, verses 1 and 2, and we see those reprinted in verses 18 and 19 of Luke four. That's why it's in all caps, it's a quotation of Isaiah 61:1 and 2. Here's what Jesus read to the crowd that morning. "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set those free who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord".

Every Jew was familiar with this passage from Isaiah. Written 700 years earlier, it was a prophecy of what the Messiah would do when he came. I want you to notice the four characteristics of the Messiah that Jesus was reading about to this assembled crowd, four characteristics of the Messiah from Isaiah 61:1-2.

Number one, he would be anointed by the Spirit of God. That's why he says, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me".

Secondly, he would announce, he would announce the arrival of God's salvation. That's what's meant by the phrase "He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives". What does he mean captives? He wasn't talking about political captives, he was talking about people who had been held captive by sin. You see, all of us are prisoners of sin. The Bible says every one of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And because of our sin, we are on death row, as it were. We had the death verdict pronounced against us. The soul that sins shall die. That means to be eternally separated from God. We are like prisoners on death row awaiting our execution. But Jesus, the Messiah, came to make a payment for our sin so that he could set us free from those chains of sin and death. He would set the prisoners free.

And then number three, he would bring God's salvation. The Messiah not only announced it, he actually affected God's salvation, to set free those who are downtrodden.

And finally, he would offer forgiveness from sins, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. This is an allusion to the Jewish year called jubilee in which all of a person's debts, the citizen's debts were forgiven in that particular year, the year of jubilee. That's what he's talking about here. He came to announce the favorable year of the Lord. That is, it doesn't matter what sin debt you have, doesn't matter how badly you have disobeyed God or for how long you've disobeyed God, you can be forgiven, the favorable year of the Lord.

Now, what is fascinating is, he left out a phrase from Isaiah 61:2 look at Isaiah 61:2 carefully. Isaiah the prophet said Messiah would come "To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God". But Jesus didn't repeat that part about the vengeance of God. He said simply to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, period, and then he sat down. Why didn't he read the second phrase? Did he run out of time, what was going on here? No, there's a real reason Jesus omitted that second phrase. You see, the Jews could not put all of this together about the Messiah, how do you come preaching grace and judgment at the same time? How can you say it's the favorable year of the Lord when you can be forgiven and at the same time God's gonna exact vengeance for the sins you've committed against him? What the Old Testament prophets didn't understand was, there would be a gap between the first coming of Jesus and his second coming.

When Jesus came the first time, Messiah came to be the Savior of the world. But the next time Jesus comes, he's not coming as Savior, he's coming as the judge of all the world, to judge the wicked and reward the righteous. That is a future coming of Christ. The future day of vengeance is coming, it just hasn't come yet. In revelation 19:15, John pictures that future day of God's wrath, talking about the second coming of Jesus. John writes, "And from his mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it he may smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, and he treads the winepress of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty".

Now, that is the future coming of Messiah, but right now he has come to offer forgiveness. Verse 20 says when he had finished reading that scripture, he sat down, that's what the teacher would do, he would sit down, but notice the last phrase of verse 20, "And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon him". I bet they were. You can just see them nudging one another, whispering. Why did Jesus read this passage today? Is Jesus inferring what I think he's saying? Is he claiming to be the "M" word? Is that what he's saying? Surely not! Well, when Jesus sat down for the explanation, he answered that question clearly, verse 21, "And Jesus began to say to them, today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing". You've been waiting for the Messiah? Your wait is over. "I am he". Man, you can just feel people clutching their chest. "I can't believe Jesus is saying that. He's claiming to be the Messiah".

By the way, don't let this fact escape your notice. Jesus is the only religious leader of any major religion who ever claimed to be God himself. Did you know no founder of any other world religion actually claimed to be God? Mohammed never claimed to be God. He simply claimed to be a prophet to point people to the false, imaginary God, Allah. That was Mohamed. He was just a prophet pointing people the wrong way. Or take Buddha. Buddha never claimed to be God. Buddha just said, when he was 35, he sat under a tree, and suddenly, God enlightened his way. His purpose was to point people to a God. He wasn't God. But Jesus clearly claimed to be God himself.

Remember John 10:30. He said, "I and the Father are one". John 14:9, "He who has seen me has seen the Father". You can't get much more clear than that. And right here, he's saying to the assembled group, "Today, this prophecy about Messiah has been fulfilled". How did they react? Well, on one hand, they were impressed. They've never heard somebody teach with this kind of authority. Verse 22 says they were impressed by the gracious words falling from his lips, words about forgiveness and healing and deliverance. But then they started to ask themselves, "Is this guy not Joseph's son? I mean, isn't this the same guy who grew up down the street from us? He's claiming to be the Messiah? That's not what we pictured the Messiah to be like". Well, Jesus could read their minds.

So look at verse 23. He anticipated their rejection, and he said to them, "No doubt you will quote this proverb to me, physician, heal yourself! Whatever we've heard that was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well". That is, "Jesus, if you're really the Messiah, why don't you conjure up some miracles for us, like you did in nearby Capernaum. We heard the great things you did there. Why not convince us that you're Messiah? Perform a sign for us". Jesus wasn't interested in doing that. He knows how ineffective signs are to bring about genuine faith. I mean, just think about the Old Testament. God gave sign after sign to the Jews, parting the Red Sea, thundering voice from heaven, manna 'til they choked on it and so on. He did all of these miraculous things. The people didn't believe.

Some of you are thinking right now, "If God would just give me a sign, if he'd perform a miracle then I'd believe in him forever". Just think back on some of the miracles God has already done in your life. Bringing you into this world, to begin with. Creating everything around that we see. Think of some of the personal answers to prayers you've already experienced. Why do you keep on doubting the reality of God? Signs in and of themselves never produce belief. He knew that, and then in verse 24, he said to them, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown". Now, that was a proverb of the day. It wasn't a principle, it wasn't a law. It was just saying it's difficult for people to minister in their hometown. People have a hard time receiving their message.

Now, come on, let's be honest here for a moment. When I came nine years ago as your pastor, there were a few of you who had a little bit of a question mark about it, didn't you? You can be honest, that's okay. You thought to yourself, "Wait a minute. This guy's gonna be our pastor? The same guy who used to run around here as a little kid, squeezing his accordion, and now he's gonna be our pastor? I'm not sure about that". But that's okay, that's okay. Jesus said it's just normal for that to occur. It doesn't mean you shouldn't try to minister in your hometown. Jesus did minister in his hometown. It was just a little more difficult for him. That's what he's saying here. He's saying, "No prophet is welcome in his hometown". And then in verses 25 to 27, he gives two examples of the Old Testament that seem at first completely irrelevant to what he's saying. He gives two stories, one about Elijah. Remember Elijah? How God cared for him. He stayed in the home of the widow at Zarephath.

Jesus said, remember, this widow was not a Jewish widow, she was a gentile widow, and then he said, and remember the story of Elisha. Remember the lepers. There were a lot of people with leprosy, a lot of Jews with leprosy, but it was a gentile named Naaman who received the healing from his leprosy. Jesus' point was, "Look, those of you who here in Nazareth, if you don't accept me and my message, that's okay. That's your choice. God has plenty of non-Jews, gentiles, who are ready to accept my salvation". Now, do you think I'm reading too much into this? Look at how they turned on Jesus in an instant. Verse 28. "And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things". What things? As Jesus said, "Guess what? Jews aren't the only ones who are gonna be saved. Your rejection is gonna cause gentiles to be a part of God's family".

Now, to understand why they became so enraged, you have to understand something about Jewish tradition. William Barkley gives us this helpful insight. He said "Jews were so sure that they were God's people that they despised all others. There was a common saying among the Jews that God had created the gentiles to be fuel for the fires of hell". And now you've got this young prophet, one of their own, coming and saying, "Guess what? God's not obligated just to bless you. He will bring gentiles to be fellow heirs with you in the Kingdom of God. In fact", Jesus would say, "They're gonna be in heaven, you're gonna be in hell, outside, clamoring, begging to come in". They couldn't handle that. They were absolutely outraged.

You see, the problem with these Jews was, the problem was they had elevated their tradition above the teaching of scripture. The fact is, scripture, from the beginning, it always said Jews were not the only ones who were gonna be saved. God said to Abraham in Genesis 12, "And through you, Abraham, all the nation of the world will be blessed". God's plan is to save Jews and gentiles and Muslims and atheists and baptists and catholics. He'll save anybody who trusts in Christ for salvation. There is a wideness in God's mercy. But they didn't wanna hear that. Their tradition taught them that, no, only Jews could be saved, so they weren't open to gentile blessing. You know, there are many, many churches today, unfortunately, that have that same narrow view about who's going to be in heaven.

Now, look, we have to be as narrow as Jesus was. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father but by me", but a lot of people have not been content to make that the only requirement. They've said that to be a member of God's family, and certainly to be a member of this church, you have to not only accept Christ as Savior, you have to look like we do. You have to believe like we do. You have to do everything we do to be welcomed into God's family. And that's why so many people are turned off to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People who have elevated their tradition above the clear teaching of scripture. The Jews didn't understand that. They were seeing how tightly they could draw the circle, and so they were enraged by what Jesus said. Verse 29 says, and they were so enraged that they took Jesus out of the synagogue, and they led him to a cliff, and they were gonna throw him over the cliff to kill him.

But look at verse 30. "But passing through their midst, he went his way". We don't know exactly what happened here. Maybe it was a miracle. God supernaturally delivered Jesus from the crowd. It may have been that simply by his authority and their cowardness, they backed down at the last minute, and Jesus just simply walked through the crowd. We don't know exactly what happened here, but what we do know is, it wasn't time for Jesus to die yet. God had a plan for his life, and by the way, he has a plan for your life as well. Maybe some of you right now are fearing your own death. Maybe you're facing an illness or you're fearing the death of somebody very close to you. I came across some words a few years ago that have been a real help to me in encouraging other people. Somebody has said, "Every person is immortal until his work on earth is done".

Do you know that? You're immortal. Nothing, nothing is gonna take you from this planet one second earlier than God's plan. Nothing is gonna take that loved one of yours away from you one second before part of God's loving, eternal, and wise plan. And that was true for Jesus. God had a plan for Jesus. He wasn't to die now. He was to die on Calvary three years later. You know, you may be wondering, why are we talking about this today? Well, we're spending a year studying the life of Jesus Christ, and we're doing it not because we can't think of anything else to do, but this church is interested in making strong disciples, followers of Jesus Christ. Remember the definition I gave you of what it means to be a disciple a few weeks ago? To be a disciple means for me to live my life as Jesus would live my life if he were I. Being a disciple doesn't mean trying to imagine that you lived 2000 years ago and were walking around Nazareth and Capernaum and wondering, "Gee, what would Jesus do"? No, that's not it.

What it means to be a disciple is, imagine Jesus were walking in your sandals right now. He had your job, he had your family, he had your friends, he had your amount of money, and what would he do in those areas of his life? That's what it means to be a disciple. To live my life as Jesus would live my life if he were I. Based on that definition, let me suggest to you in closing three practical principles from this passage about what it means to be Christ's disciple. Number one, if we're going to be a follower of Jesus, it means we need to imitate Jesus' disciplines. We need to imitate Jesus' disciplines. You know, the key to an athlete performing well in a contest is the training he endures before the game.

You know, if he waits to start training until the game begins, he's waited too long. No, it's all of those hours of training ahead of time that make him successful or unsuccessful in the game, and that means, when he stands up to swing the bat, he does so reflexively. It's easy. He's been practicing that, or when he throws the pass, I mean, he's done it so many times that it's a reflex action. It's the same way in living the Christian life. It was the same way for Jesus. The reason he was able to turn the other cheek, forgive other people, resist temptation, continue courageously in spite of criticism, he did that because he had trained. He had spent years training, immersing himself in the scriptures, praying, making that a regular part of his life, attending worship every week.

All those things were part of his training that made him play well in the game. We need to imitate Jesus' disciplines. Don't wait until the test comes to begin to train. Secondly, we need to emulate Jesus' courage. You know, somebody has said the measure of our courage is what it takes to stop us. What does it take to stop you in living out your Christian convictions? For most people, it's criticism. They're happy to follow God until they start to be criticized. Then, they're not so sure. But not Jesus. He faced criticism not just from his enemies, but from his friends and his family members, even here, his fellow church members, synagogue members, but he kept moving forward anyway. David roper in his book, a burden shared, talked about four aspects, characteristics of criticism. I bet you can relate to these.

He said, "Criticism comes, number one, when we least need it. Number two, when we least deserve it. Number three, from people who are least qualified to give it. And number four, in a form that is least helpful to us". Have you discovered that to be true? Criticism paralyzes lots of people. Not Jesus. It propelled him to keep moving forward in his obedience to God. We need to make sure that we emulate Jesus' courage, and finally, to be a disciple means we need to articulate Jesus' message. Jesus said, "I have come to announce the favorable year of the Lord". His message was a message of grace. "God is willing to forgive anyone and everyone who trusts in me for salvation".

And ladies and gentlemen, 2000 years later, we are still in that favorable year of the Lord. We're in that time that we can announce God's forgiveness of anyone who will believe, and do you realize, that's why God has left us here? Jesus said, "I came to seek and save those who are lost". If we're going to be disciples of Christ, it means that is our purpose in life as well. Now, I know I've said this a lot, and you probably think I sound like a broken record. "If the pastor says that one more time, I'm gonna throw up". I'm gonna keep saying it, because it is so important we understand this.

There is one reason God left you here on earth. He didn't leave you here to build a successful career. He didn't leave you here to accumulate the biggest pile of money you can accumulate. You're gonna leave it all behind anyway. He didn't even leave you here to have a happy family life. You're saying that on mother's day? I mean, that's not my purpose, to have a happy family life?

My old professor Howard Heindrichs, who's in heaven, nobody taught more about the family than he did, but you know what he said one time? He said, "Christians have made a fetish out of the family. They think the highest ideal is for me to be happy in my marriage, or with my kids". No, that's not his ultimate purpose for you. Jesus had a lousy family life. I mean, he was always at odds with his brothers and sisters. Sometimes, even with his mom, you know. He understood his purpose was to do the will of God. God has left you and me here for one reason, and that is to share Christ with as many people as possible. That's why we're organized as a church, to help Christians become stronger disciples and followers of Christ, but to take the message of Christ to as many people as possible. Do you understand that's why God has left you here, instead of taking you to heaven immediately?

Thursday, I had to make a day trip to California to preach to 700 pastors on the national day of prayer. I was sitting in the departure lounge, getting ready to board the plane. The captain was up at the desk, getting his paperwork. He looked over, he recognized me, and he came over, said he was a faithful listener to Pathway to Victory, and he said, "Would you like to come on board early? I'd like to show you the cockpit before the passengers come on. This is a brand new airplane". So I said, "Well, sure". So we went in, he gave me a little tour of the cockpit. We were standing there in the doorway.

He said, "You know, pastor, my vocation is being an airline captain. I've done it for 30 years". But he said, "My real calling is being a witness for Jesus Christ. My vocation is being an airline captain, but my real calling is being a witness for Christ". That guy got it. That's why we're here, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. But that favorable day of the year won't always last, because there is a day of vengeance coming when it will be too late to receive God's grace, and instead, we'll be destined to receive his judgment. When is that day of vengeance coming? When is the Lord returning to put an end to everything? I have no idea when that day is, but I think Paul was right when he said in Romans 13:11, "That day is closer today than it's ever been before". That was true 2000 years ago when Paul wrote it. Think how much more true that is today.
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